How do clients choose an agency?

 |  By: Kate Jones

We’ve shared advice on how you can help determine which client types work for your agency, using data to help you see which current clients really are your most profitable and learning what doesn’t work for your agency and therefore when you should walk away from a pitch.

Across our network, we’ve seen agencies thrive when they see in black and white, what their strengths are and which projects they're great at. When you know your sweet spot, what’s holding you back?

Well potentially, winning the work. There’s nothing more frustrating than not winning a client that you know would be great for your agency and vice versa. Clients know the agency world is competitive, they understand they’re in a privileged position. In this blog we look at the things clients look for when choosing an agency to help you make sure you stand out.

Be clear about what you do

You need to be clear and direct about what it is you do. At the risk of teaching our grandmother to suck eggs, it’s too easy to get stuck inside your own bubble and say you innovate, inspire or engage. But what does this actually mean to an outsider? Equally, you may be using your website to showcase your digital prowess through beautiful navigation, unusual features or compelling copy, that’s great too but you do still need to tell your visitor what you do.

Most people who are actively looking for an agency will have a specific piece of work in mind. They’ll probably want to know if you do web development, apps, SEO, content marketing etc. Make it immediately clear that you do what they’re looking for, preferably within their industry. Remember, that often the person putting an agency shortlist together is not the final decision-maker and they may be going off a tick list, you’ll want to make sure they can easily tick a lot of those boxes.

And if you don't do what they're looking for then you're unlikely to want the inquiry, right? It could be you’re deliberately keeping things a little vague, thinking you’ll get the inquiry and perhaps find a partner or freelancer to help. Think carefully about how you’ll stand up in a pitch against someone who has all the expertise in-house, you could end up on a wild goose chase and as you know, pitching isn’t cheap. Plus, if you do win work, if it’s outside your wheelhouse are you confident it’ll be profitable?

SoDA reported in Hubspot:

"A growing number of clients are turning to smaller agencies or specialized digital shops that offer strong technical capabilities and can deliver against specific digital marketing initiatives."

Let your genuine expertise shine

Sharry Cramond, vice president of Southeastern Grocers told The Drum:

"The most important thing when choosing an agency is the ideas. The creativity. If nearly 90% of all marketing is ignored by consumers, then you need disruptive ideas which cut through. Fancy multimedia presentations which cost a fortune don't matter if there isn't a brilliant idea in there. An agency could present their creative work on toilet paper for all I care. A brilliant idea is the most important thing."

What can you offer that another agency or an in-house team can’t? Creativity, in all its forms not only from a design perspective, is a fantastic way to keep front-of-mind and to really excite someone. A truly creative idea will inspire long after the meeting and remove any question about whether or not they need your help.

Trying to sell with bells, whistles, buzzwords, drinks and fancy meals is short-term. Enthusiasm will fade along with the hangover. Be honest about the great things you’ve genuinely done and let your work talk.

If you have industry-specific experience that will be even more powerful. If not, but you have transferable knowledge be open and explain why you feel the knowledge and expertise is relevant.

Be realistic

It’s tempting to say whatever needs to be said to win the work but overpromising is a bit like lying in an interview, it’s very unlikely to end well. Most likely you’ll under deliver and your new client won’t be a client for long. As well as a blow to your agency’s reputation, it’s not a financially viable way to work long-term.

Research done by Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company (the inventor of the net promoter score) shows that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%. As reported in the Harvard Business Review.

Alternatively, you’ll end up delivering what you’ve promised, which will crush any hope for profit.

Overpromising might even raise alarm bells, rather than win you the client. They’re potentially seeing a number of agencies, rather than be completely wowed by the fact that you’re proposing double the work for their budget, they’re more likely to smell a rat.

Be yourself

You’ve shown you’re brilliant at what you do, they know you have expertise in the area they’re looking for so you’ve hopefully made it onto the shortlist. The next step is for the potential client to buy into you.

When told to ‘be yourself’, people often assume this means be friendly, approachable and upbeat. Of course, this all helps, nobody wants to work closely with someone who’s arrogant, offhand or unapproachable but it’s not everything. A prospective client needs to know you’re switched on, diligent, you communicate clearly and ultimately, that you know more on the given subject than they do. Don’t be afraid to genuinely be yourself and to challenge where appropriate.

The small things can speak louder than a beaming smile. If you agree to a meeting, make sure you send a meeting invite before they have to chase. They’ll be looking for clues about what you’re like to work with, this is one of the first clues.

Be realistic, you may think it’s fantastic to tell them you’ll get back to them or be ready to pitch in a matter of days, but is that realistic? If not then don’t promise it. A reasonable client (and you only want the reasonable ones, right?) will understand that it takes time to give proper answers and proposals. You’re far better off getting something over to them later but on time than quickly but late. They’ll forget you responded quickly and only remember it was late.

If you’d like to know more about how Synergist can help your agency, then there are a few ways you can get in touch. You can drop us a note, book yourself a 15-minute one-to-one demo or you can give our implementation partners The Agency Works a call on 01455 553246. We’d love to see if we can help.